Police bike to honor fallen officers

In 1882, a St. Paul officer became the first to die in the line of duty in Minnesota.

by Drew Geraets

University graduates Lara Severson and Sara Evans traded in their law enforcement uniforms Sunday for cycling spandex as they helped commemorate the lives of fallen officers.

Severson, a University police officer, and Evans, a Minnesota State Patrol officer, biked 30 miles with approximately 75 other riders in the Police Unity Tour.

“I think it’s for a good cause, and it makes you feel good about what you do,” Severson said.

Nineteen bikers from the group have chosen to ride next week from Virginia Beach, Va., to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., – a 240-mile jaunt.

Riders started next to Mariucci Arena and funneled into downtown Minneapolis as police motorcycles rumbled ahead to block traffic. They made several stops along the route to honor officers killed in the line of duty.

In South Minneapolis, firefighters stood outside of their stations and saluted the group as members pedaled to Horn Towers, a public housing complex. Two years ago, a 60-year-old woman shot and killed Minneapolis police officer Melissa Schmidt in the building.

Minneapolis police officer Lynn Cronquist, who knew Schmidt well, fought back tears as she recounted the day her friend died. Riders observed a moment of silence and then pedaled to St. Paul, stopping along the way to honor fallen officers Jerry Haaf, Ron Ryan Jr. and Tim Jones and his dog Laser.

The group rode up the bluffs of the Mississippi River, encouraging each other and waving to curious residents.

After two hours, riders reached the Minnesota Peace Officer Memorial at the State Capitol.

Officers placed a wreath at the foot of the memorial and Lynn Gannon, a federal agent with the U.S. Department of the Interior, spoke about the sacrifices law enforcement officers make on a daily basis.

It is a dangerous commitment, she said, telling the crowd that a 19th-century St. Paul police officer was the first to give his life while serving in Minnesota.

“That’s what they did in 1882, and that’s what they do today,” Gannon said.

Young officers such as Severson said they are aware of the dangers.

“One day that could happen to you,” said Severson.

Severson said she did a lot of ride-alongs. “You see something different every day,” she said. “That’s what I like about it Ö and being able to help people.”

Bloomington police Sgt. Marty Earley met Ryan Jr. and Jones before they died.

“We hope people never forget,” the 17-year veteran said. “We all come to work like everyone else. But, when someone doesn’t come home, it affects us all.”